Northern alum strives to impress Argonauts

It’s an overcast day, and Toronto Argonauts’ rookies are stretching their muscles in preparation for their first camp at York Stadium.

Among them is Northern Secondary School alumnus Eric Black. The 23-year-old is working hard, doing drills under the watchful eye of offensive coordinator Tim Burke and defensive and special teams assistant Eddie Brown.

He runs route coverage, listens to said coaches as they instruct him to watch the quarterback’s body language to anticipate the play.

Black was selected by the Argos in the fifth round, 38th overall, in this year’s draft. He is living a dream, and on May 28 he shared that with the Town Crier once practice was over.

“It feels good,” he said simply. “It feels good to see my name on a locker.”

Black is the younger brother of Matt Black, currently a safety on the Argos, and the two find themselves on the same team, something that never happened in high school.

“He’s six years older than me, so when he went to college I was still in Grade 8,” he said. “By the time I got to high school, Grade 9 or 10, he got drafted.”

Unlike his older brother, who went to Saginaw Valley State in University Center, Mich., Eric Black attended St. Mary’s University in Halifax. In September he played in the Atlantic University Sport Football Conference final against Mount Allison University.

He says he’s well aware it’s a tough grind to make the cut for a spot on the Argos. And since they play the same position he expects “there’s going to be a lot of competition” from his brother.

“I don’t think he’s going to take it easy on me,” he said.

Still, having his brother there has its benefits.

“Not everyone gets to have their mentor, or their big brother, on the same team as them, so I get someone I can look up to, turn to, and I don’t have to wait for a phone call,” he said. “I just go to his locker.”

Matt Black admitted in a phone call four days after the rookie camp ended that his brother will have to “bust his tail on special teams.”

“It’s not about the mistakes you make, but it’s about the mistakes you continue to make,” he said. “So every day, something you’re not good at or you didn’t do well the day before, you focus on that, and you improve on that.”

The greatest joy for the elder Black is that their parents, Marlane and Donovan, will be able to see the two play at the same time for the same team.

“It’s really fun to see that side of things, because my parents have never gone to a game and saw both of us play at the same time,” Matt said. “I think my mom would have been heartbroken if Eric had been drafted by Hamilton or something like that.”

Back to the practice, head coach Scott Milanovich spoke with the younger Black. Milanovich played coy with reporters afterward, acknowledging only that it was just the beginning of the season.

The first pre-season game was slated for June 9 in Winnipeg. The Argos won 24-22.

“Shoot, we’ve got 10 or 15 from the Toronto area that grew up Argonaut fans, and get a chance to work out with the team,” he said. “We don’t concern ourselves with those things. We love the foundation that we have.

“Really, our job as coaches today was to get the tempo cranked up. When you do that, you don’t get to evaluate a whole lot.”

Black, of course, was just taking it all in.

“I’m just glad to be here, and I’m real honoured by them picking me up,” he said. “I’m just going to work hard and take whatever comes my way, whatever I earn, and let the chips fall wherever they may.”